Showing posts from 2017

good news for evangelicals

Ironic, no? The "evangel" is a English transliteration of the greek word for "good news." Evangelicals have brought good news to the world, but like much religion, can't do it without bad news as well. Evangelicals often teach bad news because they confuse their distinctive high view of the Bible, as the revealed word of God, with Jesus, the most complete revelation of God. But here's the good news, evangelicals, you do not have to defend the atrocity-endorsing parts of the Bible.

I'm reading a manuscript now with an approach to Biblical theology called progressive revelation. It contends God couldn't force on the Israelites the ethics of Jesus because they couldn't handle the truth.


The argument is then used to explain how much better the Israelite laws were than their contemporary societies, e.g. Yes, God did allow the Israeli soldiers to make wives of captured enemy virgins, but he forced them to recognize the women's humanity by…

book report - A Bigger Table by John Pavlovitz (2017)

John Pavlovitz appeared on my social media radar during the 2016 presidential campaign. He expressed the same dismay I did with America's conservative church's enabling of Donald Trump. At the same time, he continued to find hope despite the circumstances. Then his book came out! I heard a sermon of his a few weeks ago via Gracepoint Church podcast in which he spoke of the big themes of this book.

What if church could be more like his Italian American family's kitchen when he was growing up, always making room for one more, where conversations could be loud, where disagreements could be had in the safety of love, where no one was left out?

I sat down and read through the book in a few hours. The premise is so simple. Instead of deciding who is in or out, just find them another chair. But this story is more than that, because it is his story of process. He was raised by a loving safe family in the Catholic church where he acquired a predisposition to guilt. A fresh start in …

"They have closed their heart to pity"

"They have closed their heart to pity, and their mouth speaks proud things." A line from today's lectionary reading reminds me of the American political climate. It's from Psalm 17, a lament about the writer's enemies and appeal to God for deliverance.

How can this not be the prayer of everyone except white men in this country? Men assault women with impunity like their president. White nationalists who welcome nazis into their ranks march unhooded to protest immigration of brown people and the removal of white supremacy statues, men called by their president as "very fine". Adults who were brought to this country without documents when they were children, only knowing this country as theirs, fear arrest and deportation, because the current dominant political party, refuses to pity them as the previous administration did. Sexual minorities are summarily dismissed from the armed forces by their president. White men can carry guns in protests and point th…

"Through God's grace" from a 13th century mystic

I want to start with a long quote from this 13th century mystic. It can be read online here, but the physical book is a worthwhile purchase. I will quote this in full, because it's the struggle in my own faith journey to letting go and letting God.

Someone imagines that he can rid himself of his negative qualities by means of his own labor and striving. When he struggles and makes every effort possible only to be disappointed, God says to him, "You thought it would come about through your own power and action and effort. That is the law I have established, that is, that whatever you have you should expend it in My Way -- only then does My grace arrive.
"We say to you, 'Travel this infinite road with your own weak legs.' We know that with your weak legs you will never be able to accomplish the journey -- in a hundred thousand years you would not complete even one stage of the journey. But when you make the effort and collapse and fall down, unable to take another s…

If I were on Trump's evangelical advisory team

Not that I ever would be invited to be on this council of evangelical advisers, because of many reasons, I don't pastor a large wealthy church, I didn't endorse him, I don't flatter him by calling him God's chosen leader, and I'm not fundagelical anymore....but....if I was asked to serve, I'd consider it a Good Samaritan opportunity to help a deeply wounded enemy of mine who has little good will for me or my neighbors, especially brown skinned neighbors.

In the liturgy readings last week, I encountered again the obscure Hebrew prophet, Micaiah. King Ahab, a notorious Jewish king in the Hebrew scriptures, had a bunch of flattering court prophets who agreed with any plan he had and always told him god would support him. But this other Jewish king from the south wanted to hear from prophets from his school of theology. Ahab shrugged and was like, "yeah, I have one of those, but he's so negative, but sure I'll get him over here." Micaiah shows up …

You don't need a bible verse

to be a decent human being! I think many of us use Bible verses to be selfish though.

Sometimes Christians can be the greatest humanitarians and sometimes the worst. My country has elected Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump. One freed millions of enslaved humans and the other, when he speaks from his heart, not a teleprompter, can't find a problem with white nationalists who think Lincoln was wrong.

Our country is deeply religious. But it was the religious convictions of the Christian progressive, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, who fanned the abolitionist flame into the conflagration of the Civil War. She was "progressive" because she rejected the bible proof texts that permitted slavery and empathized with the humanity of the enslaved humans in her country.

Some biblical proof texts that are used to end a debate are merely proof that the bible was written by humans who wrote in the context of culture they were familiar with. Some proof texts are u…

all these deaths - to what end?

World War 2 was started by agressive nations motivated in part by racial supremacy. Hitler told Germans and Austrians that they were the superior race of Aryans. He also used the European Jewish population as a scapegoat for all the ills they had brought on themselves when they lost WW1. The Japanese also considered themselves a superior race and saw a distinction between themselves and all other Asian people in China, Korea, and the Pacific islands. In Japan, anyone not Japanese was sub-human. In central Germany, anyone not "Aryan" was sub-human as well. The United States sent to the slaughter nearly 300,000 Americans to defeat these racist ideologies.

Ironically, the United States had its own racist ideologies to defeat within. Eighty years prior to WW2, over 200,000 Americans died in conflict over this very issue in the Civil War. Before and after that war, the US used genocidal means to eradicate it's own aboriginal population. A footnote in American history Hitler h…

I thought all lives matter - don't be a sucker

In response to the meme #blacklivesmatter some white supremacists tried to counter with the meme #alllivesmatter. African Americans have consistently responded saying "black lives matter" does not contradict all lives matter but points to the problem of disproportionate human rights violations against people of African heritage. In other words all lives do NOT matter if black lives do NOT matter. It fell on deaf ears.

White supremacists claim any protesters who affiliate with black lives matter are terrorists. They are including many whites and many, many clergy. But when one shouts, nuance is not necessary.

This weekend a white man from Ohio drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters in Chralottesville, Virginia. This small city decided to honor the injustice against black americans by renaming parks who had previously honored slave holding, secessionist generals from the Civil War, Lee and Jackson. The insecure men of the alt-right held a rally to protest this. The r…

The self-righteous Pharisee and the tax collector

In today's daily office reading Jesus tells this parable.

Luke 18:9-14 The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” NRSV
I want to learn from this passage. However, I know I can be Pharisaical myself. There are plenty of posts here I have st…

book report - Blue Ocean Faith by Dave Schmelzer (2017)

This book is so much better than I expected!

It's not that I had very low expectations for this work by Dave Schmelzer, but I already listen to his weekly podcast of the same name, I already get his newsletter, I have read many of the articles on the Blue Ocean Faith website, and I did not know if there was anything new for him to say.

I'm not sure if he has said anything new, but he presents it very well with great anecdotes and illustrations from his life and those of his fellow BOF co-laborers.

Yes, I was a fan before the book and I'm a bigger fan since reading it. He is not ashamed of his theological roots but triesnot elevate his preferences over the bigger picture. What does he see as the bigger picture?

The important "sola" is solus Jesus which is over and above sola scriptura. Not that scripture is important but scripture is read through the lens of Jesus.The focus is on Jesus not ring fencing, defining who is in or out, he calls this "centered set&q…

I love Matt Walsh...

even if he doesn't love me.

Matt Walsh is a popular conservative writer whose Christianity is as black and white as mine used to be. Black and white is such an easy place to be until it isn't. When none of the promises of the Bible-pocket-promise-book (yes that's a real book I gave to a mentally ill friend of mine decades ago) mean anything any longer. In those times of trauma, when the faith we received from our fundamentalist, book focused churches leaves us staring at a silent, dead Christ, something will give.

Sometimes, it was my integrity that gave. I was encouraged to repent of my inquisitive mind. I consulted encyclopedias (not a brief book for my pocket) of bible difficulties, because there are so many issues with the book. Despite the very warning from St. Paul, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life, I went back to the book. It was the only thing tangible. The book is a blunt instrument, causing tremendous damage. But it gets results. It provides judgment i…

Jesus the refurbished prototype

St. Paul likes to contrast Jesus with Adam, the first human in the Hebrew creation story. He writes in his magnum opus, the letter to the Roman church,

Romans 5:14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

Adam was a prototype, but his defect was a lack of trust in God. Paul's argument is this defect affects all of humanity, until the new prototype, God in human skin, appears and rectifies it.

18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

It is verses like 18 that I take literally which give me confidence that all humanity will be reconciled to God and not just a few. But this is n…

when I was a child

I read stories of talking animals. I talked to my stuffed animals. I hoped for them to talk back to me. I slowly learned the difference between fantasy and reality. I started to learn facts, statements about reality. When my elementary school was closing at the end of my first grade I told my grandmother I had to repeat my grade at the new school. I was wrong, but I didn't know how school and summer break worked together back then as a six year old. I was earnest, but I was ignorant.

I'm still earnest and ignorant. I earnestly believe I'm more aware of my ignorance in my middle age.

I can understand why fundamentalist Christianity appealed to my earnest desire to proclaim facts, distinguishing them from fantasy in my budding scientific mind. Four spiritual laws. Ten commandments. The Fundamentals. The Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. Creation science. For every question or doubt, a verse, a proof text will answer. Nuance, mystery, and heart knowledge, all childlike was no …

Changing minds in a post-truth society

After reading this long article by David Roberts at Vox I've been thinking about the possible solution to his detailed analysis of the problem, tribal epistemology. Roberts has little to offer for soultions except the self-acknowledged trope "listen to each other." It may be a trope, but it is half right. I believe the answer is deeper than that, it calls for a level of communication that does not rely on statistics, but on anecdotes. Personal stories can change people's minds.

The stories I heard today on the latest Liturgists podcast, Advocacy, from Christina Cleveland and Mickey Scottbey Jones confirmed what I've been thinking. As one of them said, and the hosts confirmed, those of us with a bleeding heart perspective might be the only one in the social circle of our more conservative relatives or friends. To turn away from the opportunity to win someone close to us to a open handed posture with our personal stories is to miss the impact of a heart change inst…

Not everything biblical is Christian part 22 - the Jesus hermeneutic

Even Jesus explicitly refutes a flat reading of the bible, where every verse in one part of the Bible, say Joshua's genocidal passages, have the same weight in understanding God as the passages where Jesus himself, claiming to be equal to God, describes God. This method of interpretation, a hermeneutic in college words, is applied with varying degrees by fundamentalist Christianity across its multiple branches.

For example, in my own life, I've argued for young earth creationism and patriarchal church leadership and even abstinence during menstruation among other literal readings. The fundagelical branch of the church where I've spent the majority of my faith life advocates for some purity laws but not others, almost as varied as the personalities of the white male pastors who are making the proclamations.

But Jesus himself keeps pushing against this hermeneutic, as I've tried to show nearly two dozen times in this series. As I read today's Daily Office reading, I …

up in the balcony

Jesus talks about generosity in terms on not letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing. The metaphor works on his teaching to not trumpet our charity but rather to keep it quiet, so that our Father who sees in secret will reward us. However, there are some things the church does in disconnect that should not be. Take the story of the African American christian man Richard Allen.

Richard Allen was born into slavery in pre-revolutionary America. However, he was allowed to work side jobs by his owner in Delaware to purchase his freedom. He became a free man in 1786, in the newly independent United States. Before his freedom he became a Methodist. He became a preacher and attracted a growing congregation of black men and women to a small white church, whose white elders grew uncomfortable with their diminishing racial ratio. Allen asked the church to let him have a place for his swelling black congregation. They refused him, but offered to let he and other black church memb…

book report: Tempting Faith by David Kuo 2006

Before he passed away from brain cancer, David Kuo, a Republican speech writer and political activist wrote his memoir about the clash between his earnest faith and the politics that kept prevailing over it, Tempting Faith, and inside story of political seduction.

Kuo's last job in the White House was in George W. Bush's office of faith based and community initiatives. This office was formed from Bush's campaign promises of compassionate conservatism, which promised to unleash public funds to faith based groups in order that they may serve the needy alongside secular or non-religious aid programs. A promise of $8 billion dollars for this program was never followed up on and only 1-3% of that amount ever trickled down from the Bush White House and Republican controlled Congress. Kuo fought hard for that funding, his faith in Jesus Christ, aligned with his desire to see more people aided not only materially but also spiritually.

His credentials include a long list of Republi…

Greater works than Jesus's

In John 14 Jesus tells his disciples "Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it." This is the gospel section of today's lectionary reading.

As someone who was part of the Vineyard movement for years and still have affection for it and it's founder, John Wimber, I had long read the "greater works" as greater than the miraculous stuff Jesus did. But now, as I am certainly pre-disposed to look for the love of God on every page, I wonder if Jesus is referring to greater acts of mercy than what he could do as a single human.

Paul refers to the church with a metaphor of Christ&#…